The following is actually a post I wrote on bhuz in 2007 - I just came across it reading a current thread on a similar topic (those "related topic" links are handy!), and I thought I'd share it here:
One of my greatest pet peeves is the misuse of the title of art when it comes to bellydance. Nothing grates on my nerves more than a hodge-podge collection of random costuming, music bits, and BD moves being displayed and then defended as art.
It's another one of those umbrella terms that gets sullied in overuse without support.
I do believe that bellydance is an art in itself..it's a performing art, just like the other forms of dance - it takes skill to achieve and serves to express the human condition - our soul, our hearts, what and where the rhythm brings us.
But I'm also very aware that my position comes from a life-long study of visual art. I started attending formal art school when I was in first grade, and continued on all the way through college, and may eventually go back for a masters (when I have time lol), but my main purpose for that is to learn another art-form (like weaving/fabrics/apparel), which I can do without getting a masters degree ;)
I graduated from RISD - one of the best and toughest art schools in the nation. The criticism I receive over my dancing is nothing compared to the brutality of the crit wall in foundation and major classes, and lasting upwards of 4-8 hours long each time. My parents were not and are not easy-going, praise-giving type of people, and I have and do work professionally in the arts...so I would say I have a very thick skin, nor do I seek praise for what I do. I don't think I would be where I am without these traits.
I'm telling you this because I mean to say, when I call what I do art, it's not an excuse. Whether I'm creating visual art or dance, I approach it the same way. First, what is it that I wish to say? How can I best say it? What media will best accomplish my intent (for dance this would be music/costume/moves), and how will this possibly affect my audience? (I say possibly because you just never know until it's done how it is seen through others eyes, and generate ideas and concepts you may have never considered...which is all part of the artistic process.)
And I teach these qualities in my workshops and emphasize to my students to THINK before they dance. Again, if you're going to do fusion, you should know 1. why you're doing it 2. what you're fusing 3. where and how is it going to work?
If you can't answer those questions before doing a performance, I don't think you should be doing it. And you'd best not call the sorry result art. Art is NOT an excuse, it's a language---and you either speak it well, or you don't.